News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 23, 2013

Park board OKs security increase

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Park Board on Monday approved a measure to increase security personnel.

The measure will directly impact Hawthorn Park, with a security officer gaining an additional 16 hours per week. In addition, the park department could hire off-duty reserve county deputies as needed.

Funding would come from the department’s existing salary budget, said Park Superintendent Kara Kish.

She said that Hawthorn Park has experienced an increase in vandalism and that the park has campers who are increasingly violating policies.

 Those policies, for example, state hours of operations, no alcohol in the parks and number of people on a camp site — six is the maximum.

Park policies also address pets, which are not allowed to roam free. Kish last week asked one person to leave Hawthorn Park based on that policy, stating the person had cats that went into other camp sites.

The person was given verbal warnings by park staff, and Kish said she has three written incident reports of violating park policy.

Park policies are directed at “ensuring the health, safety and enjoyment of all our campers, so when a party or camp site is in repeated violation of policy or commits a serious violation of policy, our policies do state that we reserve the right to ask them to leave the campgrounds as well as their party” without a refund, Kish said.

The county parks opened May 1. Vigo County police dispatch reports show county police were dispatched 37 times to Hawthorn Park from May 11 to July 19. Examples of incidents include suspicious vehicle, animal complaint, unwanted guest, civil disturbance, extra patrol, theft of property, intoxicated person, unwanted guest, suspicious person, juvenile problem and domestic dispute.

Muriel Ryan, founder of Families by Choice, told the board she is concerned about homeless people in the park. Board president Peggy Harlan said the board has never linked any vandalism or events to the homeless.

“We have not talked about homeless, just people who are campers,” Harlan said.

Kish said park personnel do not ask people who pay to camp in the park if they are homeless, as all people who meet the park policies are able to be in the parks.

In other business, the board voted to create an advisory council to research the possibility of creating a mountain bike trail in Fowler Park, likely in the 300-acre Fowler Park Wilderness Area, located on the northeast corner of Oregon Church Road and Bono Road. The main park is 162.8 acres.

The idea is to use natural terrain and natural landscaping to provide a more interactive biking experience, Kish said.

In addition, the board was notified the park department has stopped the dumping of wood mulch, especially from commercial tree companies, at Hawthorn Park. Park officials previously had invited companies to dump the wood mulch; however, now the dumping has become too much for the park to handle.

“We have a policy that companies and others are not allowed to dump [mulch] without special permission,” Kish said. The park department is working to distribute mulch to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Indiana State University.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.